Much of the research carried out around the globe is now conducted with the assistance of advanced information and communications technology (ICT) tools and services. Researchers can now reach out to each other from opposite ends of the country, even the globe, sharing data, ideas and instruments or equipment. Entirely new fields of research are emerging as researchers can now collect, move and manipulate large amounts of data, enabling new and much more complex problems to be addressed. The technologies themselves create new avenues through which research can be achieved, so that research is routinely undertaken that would not be feasible using any other means.
These new and collaborative approaches to research within disciplines and across disciplines, supported by ICT, constitute eResearch. eResearch provides an effective way of enabling institutions and researchers to work together, using shared infrastructure and resources to tackle complex problems.
The Australian Government is investing $82 million through the National Collaborative Research Strategy into eResearch through the Platforms for Collaboration (PfC) capability. This investment supports technological platforms that enhance researchers’ ability to generate, collect, share, analyse, store and retrieve information, allowing them to access knowledge, data and information and work together seamlessly from desk to desk between organisations.
Such seamless access enables researchers to carry out their research more creatively, efficiently and collaboratively across long distances, regardless of location and time, and disseminate their research outcomes with greater effect.
The Platforms for Collaboration capability builds on the work of the e-Research Coordinating Committee whose Final Report was accepted by the Australian Government in April 2007 as well as the achievements of the Systemic Infrastructure Initiative
What they're saying
One of the things that's great about being able to collaborate more closely using eResearch technologies is that you've got much more interactivity and you can develop ideas more quickly and also get approval for them, share them with other people who need to give you a perspective.
Dr Linda Barwick, Director, Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC), University of Sydney
Platforms for Collaboration
The PfC capability consists of the following components:
National Computational Infrastructure (NCI)
The National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) project, hosted by the ANU, is being implemented under an agreement for $26 million between the ANU and DIISR. NCI is expected to deliver an internationally significant high-performance computing (HPC) capability which can be assigned on a merit and priority basis, and build essential expertise in high-performance computing needed to support priority research. It will also provide a national strategy for computation infrastructure.
The breadth of NCI’s engagement is reflected in the NCI Steering Committee, chaired by Professor Mark S Wainwright, with members from the ANU, CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), Geoscience Australia, and the research and higher education sector.
Professor Brian Yates chairs the NCI Merit Allocation Committee. Professor Lindsay Botten was appointed as the NCI Director in May 2008.
· the National Facility (NF) which provides the national peak computing system for capability computing. Joint planning is underway with CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology with the view to installing the new peak facility in April 2009 and conducting acceptance testing in July 2009. At the same time, efforts are being made to install an HPC system by early September 2008 at the NF to provide for much needed additional cycles between now and the installation of the next peak system;
· Specialised Facilities (SF) that provide access to high-end computing resource that complement the National Facility in its support for particular research communities and their applications; and
· the Computational Tools and Techniques (CT & T) program that provides targeted software development support for particular research communities in order to improve their access to a tailored and high quality computational research environment.
Further details on the NCI may be found at http://nci.edu.au
The Interoperation and Collaboration Infrastructure (ICI) component is providing grid enabled technologies and infrastructure to enable seamless access to research facilities and services. The ICI is being implemented through a Funding Agreement between DIISR and the Victorian Partnership for Advanced Computing (VPAC). VPAC distributes funds to a partnership of service providers through a joint-venture consisting of service providers across Australia who contribute computer and data support systems over the distributed grid system and is known as the Australian Research Collaboration Service (ARCS).
Professor Anthony Williams was appointed as the ARCS Executive Director in December 2007. Following an initial year of establishment and transitioning activity, ARCS is becoming more focused on a closer engagement with research communities.
· A current focus for ARCS is on engaging with affiliates more explicitly and working in a coordinated manner with other service providers. In this activity, ARCS is seeking a closer engagement with the Council of Australian Universities Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT);
· ARCS is also likely to provide authorisation development services to assist eResearch services to assist eResearch service providers and research communities, with a view to enabling these communities to meet their authorisation requirements in collaboration with the Australian Access Federation;
· Service provision, with those currently on offer being:
o Video and Web Collaboration Tools
o Data storage and collaboration, replication, and transfer services (the "ARCS Data Fabric")
o Remote and Grid Computing
o Training, workshops and helpdesk services
The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) component of the PfC capability will ensure researchers are able to identify, locate, access and analyse any available research data. In particular, ANDS will provide a systemic approach to research data to transform the disparate collections of research data around Australia into a cohesive corpus of research resources.
A Technical Working Group was established by a broader ANDS reference group in early 2007 and submitted its conceptual design for ANDS in the form of a report, Towards the Australian Data Commons (TADC), in October 2007. This report formed the basis of deliverables required of ANDS and enabled the characteristics of its operation to be well defined and broadly agreed.
An ANDS Establishment Project, led by Monash University in collaboration with the Australian National University (ANU) and CSIRO, helped develop the necessary elements to move to full ANDS implementation. As a result of this Establishment Project, a Funding Agreement between DIISR and Monash University was signed on 17 September 2008. The ANDS project will receive funding of $21 million over the forthcoming three years. A selection process for the ANDS Executive Director is currently in its final stages.
Four programs of activity will be pursued: Developing Frameworks, Providing Utilities, Seeding the Commons, and Building Capabilities. An Interim Business Plan (IBP) has been drafted which outlines the expected first year outcomes for ANDS as a whole and for each of the four programs. The IBP will form the basis of the first Annual Business Plan upon the commencement of an Executive Director.
ANDS will focus strongly on engagement with the whole sector, sourcing expertise for projects, activities and services from wherever that expertise resides.Further details on ANDS may be found at http://www.ands.org.au
The Australian eResearch Infrastructure Council (AeRIC) is the governance and coordination body within the PfC capability. The Council is responsible for ensuring that world-class infrastructure, services and expertise are identified, developed and delivered nationwide in ways that sustain the strategic motivation and promotion of eResearch.
AeRIC is chaired by Professor Tom Cochrane from the Queensland University of Technology. Dr Rhys Francis is the Executive Director of the Council.
The Council considers developments within the PfC Components and advises the Department on progress and issues across NCRIS eResearch investments. The Council meets regularly on approximately a two-monthly basis.
More details on AeRIC, including records of its meetings, may be found at http://www.pfc.org.au/bin/view/Main/AeRIC.
The National eResearch Architecture Taskforce (NeAT) has been established to provide guidance on the evolution of the national eResearch infrastructure and to identify and scope activities that broaden the appeal of eResearch services. NeAT is responsible for recommending projects for investment from the $12 million NeAT funding, available within the ANDS and ICI components. The Taskforce is chaired by the Executive Director of AeRIC, Dr Rhys Francis.
The first round of NeAT projects has commenced and is assisting research communities from the humanities through to biodiversity specialists. Expressions of interest for a second round of funding will be sought later this year.
National eArchitecture Taskforce - Round 2 - Call for Input
Ideas are sought from interested research communities on the ongoing investment strategy for next generation eResearch tools and services.
It is anticipated that a number of projects will be supported in the investment strategy that would be either large projects ($400k per annum) or small ($200k per annum), commencing in 2009 and concluding in June 2011. A total of $5 million is available for this second round of funding. Previous examples of successful NeAT projects are available at www.pfc.org.au/bin/view/Main/NeAT.
NeAT is seeking to develop a suite of eResearch tools and services projects that can be pursued through to June 2011. Ultimate approval of projects will come from the Australian eResearch Infrastructure Council (AeRIC).
Input must be received by COB 7 November 2008.
Please contact one of the following NeAT members to discuss your ideas in the first instance and the process for generating the necessary scoping input.
Dr Paul Coddington
Australian Research Collaboration Service (ARCS)
Tel: 08 8303-8262
Dr Andrew Treloar
Australian National Data Service
Tel: 0407 202 501
More details on NeAT may be found at http://www.pfc.org.au/bin/view/Main/NeAT
The Australian Access Federation (AAF) project is an initiative funded by the Government to provide a shared infrastructure for all users working in multiple environments and institutions to have seamless and secured access to resources online. Once established, the AAF will provide a national authentication and authorisation framework for the higher education sector and research community, and will hence play a critical role ensuring the accessibility of NCRIS infrastructure and research data.
The AAF project team is comprised of University of Queensland, Macquarie University and AusCERT staff. Work is underway on governance, technical and legal issues, and a communications strategy to engage prospective members of the Federation, such as universities, research agencies and service providers. It is expected that implementation will commence in early 2009.More details on AAF may be found at http://www.aaf.edu.au
The Australian Research and Education Network (AREN), funded by the Australian Government to the value of $88 million from 2003 to 2006 through the Systemic Infrastructure Initiative, is one of the most advanced international optic fibre research and education networks in the world. This builds on the considerable work undertaken by AARNet Pty Ltd over several years and follows a comprehensive review of the higher education sector’s access to bandwidth and its future requirements, detailed in the report A Framework for an Australian Research and Education Network. The network connects universities and research institutes in all capital cities and many regional centres, as well as isolated research facilities such as radio telescopes. It also connects the east coast of Australia to multiple points of presence on the west coast of the USA and the west coast of Australia to Singapore, Frankfurt and on to European networks. The potential exists for the AREN to grow to meet the needs of new NCRIS users of the network. Defining these requirements and setting the standards for optimal access to the network is a priority for PfC and AREN’s operator and manager, AARNet Pty Ltd, into the future.
Dr Rhys Francis
Executive Director, AeRIC
Enquiries in regards to the implementation process for Platforms for Collaboration should be directed to the following leaders for each of the components:
ICI – Professor Anthony Williams
Executive Director, Australian Research Collaboration Service (ARCS)
University of Adelaide
Level 1, Physics Building
UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE SA 5005
Tel: +61 8 8303 3546
ANDS – Dr Ross Wilkinson
Fax: +61 8 8303 3551
Executive Director, Australian National Data Service
Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO ICT Centre, Melbourne
CSIRO ICT Centre, GPO Box 664, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
Tel: +61 2 6216 7152
Fax: +61 2 6216 7111
NCI – Professor Lindsay Botten
Director, National Computational Infrastructure
CSIT Building (108), North Road, Australian National University
Canberra, ACT 2600
Tel: +61 2 6125 9800
Fax: +61 2 6125 9805
For matters related to management of the NCRIS program, please contact the NCRIS Team by email.